Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 11/19/12
Tomorrow is the day for teams to protect players for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Teams have until midnight to add players to the 40-man roster, or risk those players being exposed in the draft this December. The first time eligible players this year are high school players from the 2008 draft and college players from the 2009 draft.  The Pirates currently have six open spots on the 40-man roster. They could clear more spots if needed. Other teams will be clearing spots to protect their prospects, which means the Pirates could also use a spot to claim players on waivers. That happened last year when they claimed Brian Jerolomann and Jeremy Hefner. Below is the list of eligible players, and my thoughts on who should be protected tomorrow. Teams have until midnight Tuesday night to add players to the roster. First time Eligibles Ashley Ponce, SS Benjamin Gonzalez, SS Carlos Paulino, C Elevys Gonzalez, 3B Elias Diaz, C Evan Chambers, CF Francisco Aponte, 1B Gavi Nivar, P Gift Ngoepe, SS Jarek Cunningham, 2B Jeffrey Inman, P Joan Montero, P Jodaneli Carvajal, 2B Jorge Bishop, 2B Junior Sosa, OF Nathan Baker, P Phillip Irwin, P Porfirio Lopez, P Quinton Miller, P Ramon Cabrera, C Rinku Singh, P Ryan Beckman, P Samuel Gonzalez, C Tony Sanchez, C Victor Black, P Yhonathan Barrios, SS Zachary Fuesser, P Previously Eligible BOLD = Eligible for minor league free agency Aaron Poreda, P Aaron Pribanic, P Anderson Hernandez, 2B Andrew Lambo, RF Andy Vasquez, LF Charles Cutler, C Eliecer Navarro, P Emmanuel De Leon, P Eric Avila, 3B Erik Turgeon, P Francisco Diaz,  C Hunter Strickland, P Jeff Larish, OF Jeremy Farrell, 3B Jhonatan Ramos, P Kenn Kasparek, P Kris Johnson, P Kyle Kaminska, P Michael Colla, P Quincy Latimore, LF Stefan Welch, 3B Tim Alderson, P Zachary Foster, P Rule 5 Analysis This is a slow year for the Pirates and the Rule 5 eligibles. The players who are eligible this year are the high school players from the 2008 draft and the college players from the 2009 draft. The Pirates went heavy on college players in the top rounds of the 2008 draft, with the notable high school picks in the top 20 being Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller, Jarek Cunningham, and Wes Freeman. In 2009 the Pirates went heavy on high school talent in the middle rounds. First rounder Tony Sanchez will be eligible, as will first round compensation pick Victor Black. But the combination of a college heavy draft in 2008 and a high school heavy draft in 2009 leaves the list a little short this year. The players I would consider protecting are as follows: Gift Ngoepe - He’s the best defensive infielder in the system, and might be the fastest in the system. It’s been surprising how well he has developed, and that development should continue. He’s shown some ability with the bat, although not in a consistent manner. He wouldn’t be the first speedy, plus defense shortstop with a weak bat to be added to the 40-man roster. Phil Irwin - Irwin really stepped up this year, putting up strong numbers in Double-A and Triple-A. He could be ready for the majors next year. He’s more a depth option, with his upside being a back of the rotation starter. The Pirates would be better going with him than signing a free agent for the same role. Ramon Cabrera - His hitting picked up in the second half, and he looked good defensively behind the plate this year. His upside is probably a backup catcher. The Pirates are thin at the position in the upper levels, and shouldn’t risk losing a guy like Cabrera. Tony Sanchez - His defense is strong, but his bat has limited his potential upside. He did see a power increase in Triple-A, which is encouraging, although it was a small sample size and came without hitting for average. He’ll definitely be protected. Victor Black - He’s got the stuff to be a late inning reliever, touching 99 MPH with his fastball and complimenting that with a hard slider, which gets a lot of strikeouts. Kyle Kaminska - The Pirates added him in the Gorkys Hernandez/Gaby Sanchez trade, and he showed some promise in his limited time in the rotation between high-A and Double-A.   Borderline Players: Jarek Cunningham - A lot of pop for a middle infielder, but poor defense and poor plate patience could limit his upside. It would also make it less likely that he gets picked, since he doesn’t play a premium defensive position. Jeff Inman - He’s got a great arm, touching 98 MPH in instructs last year. He didn’t have success this year in Double-A from a numbers standpoint. Nathan Baker - As a starter he struggled with control. As a reliever he looked dominant. A left-handed reliever might not have the upside to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Eric Avila - There’s probably no chance that he gets taken, since he’s only played in low-A. I just thought I’d point him out since he had a great second half with West Virginia, finally showing his power potential by hitting for a .291/.328/.564 line and 11 homers in 165 at-bats after the break.
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